5 players Eagles could target to replace Derek Barnett

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NFL: AUG 27 Preseason – Vikings at Chiefs
KANSAS CITY, MO – AUGUST 27: Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen (58) on the sidelines in the first quarter of an NFL preseason game between the Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs on Aug 27, 2021 at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia Eagles were blindsided today by an injury to Derek Barnett. The Tennessee product will miss the entire season leaving Philly a little short in the EDGE department. The question now becomes how, or whether they will replace him. Here are some potential options.

The Hybrid package

What we saw on Sunday could be a sign of things to come. We know that Jonathan Gannon preaches versatility and his big calling-card is a defense that has no one schematic identity. From four-man fronts to three-man fronts, linebackers rushing the passer and defensive tackles dropping back, mystery is the name of the game, for better or worse.

As a result of this, the Eagles could pretty capably offset the Derek Barnett injury by using guys like Haason Reddick and Milton Williams, who have the special ability to play both inside and out. However, it would limit them in other areas.

Right now, for whatever reason, Eagles rookie Jordan Davis is barely seeing the field. If there is a legitimate reason for this, then pulling extra resources away from the DT spot wouldn’t be ideal.

However, it is likely that we see a committee of names filling in at that third EDGE spot, rushing in sub-packages and dropping back into coverage in others, negating Barnett’s absence by constantly moving the front seven around.

Tarron Jackson

The more linear approach would be second-year player, Tarron Jackson, who had a thunderous preseason.

Although Jackson was a late-round pick by the Eagles, it’s hard to imagine why a 6’2″, 260 pound First Team Associated Press All-American, and 2020 Bednarik Semifinalist that broke his school’s records for single season and career sacks and career tackles for loss lasted that long.

He’s a freakish athlete who flashed during his rookie year, with a sack, forced fumble and 11 tackles.

As a young player, this is the perfect scenario for him to come and earn his stripes and some regular playing time. If Jackson can build on his rookie year and prove himself worthy of an expanded role, then the Eagles will have little to worry about.

Matt Leo

It is worth noting that Matt Leo is currently stashed on the practice squad. Like Jordan Mailata, he’s a member of the NFL’s International Pathway Program and doesn’t actually cost them a roster spot. He’s been on the roster for a few years now and could be an intriguing name to keep an eye on.

Free agents

Gernard Avery

Takkarist McKinley

Formerly a first-round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons, McKinley burst out of the gate through his opening two years but then was waived in 2020 after some injury setbacks and an unsettled trade request. He caught on with the Browns last year but tore his Achilles late in the season.

He’s still young enough to be worth a look and if he can stay healthy, could fill a gap on a cheap deal.

Jason Pierre-Paul

Yes, he’s coming off of shoulder surgery, but he’s a wiley vet who knows the NFC East well. He’s won two Super Bowls and even managed a Pro Bowl appearance in 2020 despite being 31. It’s not a great option, but you won’t find a better stopgap in terms of someone with the experience to hit the ground running.

Steven Means

An old Philadelphia favorite, it was disappointing not to see Means catch on in the City of Brotherly Love. He’s currently on Baltimore’s practice squad after carving out quite the career for himself. Welcoming Steven Means back to the Eagles would be optimal, but poaching him away from Baltimore won’t exactly be easy.

Alex Okafor

He’s not the pass-rusher he used to be and only played in 41% of snaps last year for the Chiefs. However, that’s still more than Philly would need and it’s still an improvement over Ryan Kerrigan.

Everson Griffen

Griffen is a 4-3 pass-rusher which may limit him in Gannon’s fluid defense, but that is the name that counts. The two spent plenty of time together in Minnesota and although he’s now 34-years-old, Griffen proved in spurts last year that he can at least still hang in the NFL, even if it’s for a couple drives each week.

Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire